Navjot’s scores from Barça’s league opener.
Marc Andre ter Stegen (5/10)
Despite a dominant victory for Barcelona, Ter Stegen wasn’t at his best. The German did not have to save a ton of shot considering the very few chances that Real Betis managed to create. How ever, he wasn’t at his distributive best, often choosing to make the safe pass instead of initiating counter-attacks.
Jordi Alba (5/10)
It is difficult to judge Jordi Alba when he is on the wrong side of the field. For most of last year, the attacking side of the pitch was usually the left flank. However, in the absence of Neymar and Iniesta, Alba seemed pretty lost as to what was expected of him. Misplacing simple passes, the Spaniard did just enough to put in a decent outing and not let the rest of the team down.
Javier Mascherano (7/10)
There is not much that can be said about El Jefecito apart from the fact that he had an absolutely sensational game. Despite talks of his dwindling physical capabilities going around, there was little physical evidence on the night. From start to finish–including an excellent tackle from behind to deny Sergio Leon–Mascherano put in a defensive masterclass and reaffirmed his importance to the team.
Samuel Umtiti (6/10)
A solid performance from the Frenchman. Umtiti wasn’t making tackles galore but he was the perfect supporting role, winning balls in the air and holding the fort like a man on a mission. However, he was the second best centre-back on the night, which is okay.
Nelson Semedo (6/10)
We all love Aleix Vidal but Nelson Semedo is simply better. The Portuguese offered excellent control going forward. His tendency to cut in was negated by Gerard Deulofeu who stuck to his flank to take apart the conpact Betis defence. This allowed Semedo to play his natural game and show us how good he can be with the ball at his feet. If he keeps playing the way he did last night, I would say he is already on course to become a mainstay on the team-sheet..
Sergio Busquets (7/10)
There is very little to say about Busquets. He was the man in the middle running the show alongside another player whom we’ll get to. Busquets was everywhere–controlling the tempo, making runs in possession playing one-twos and breaking down the tight Betis defence.
Ivan Rakitic (5/10)
Things haven’t been going very well for Ivan Rakitic. While he wasn’t under-performing, he was definitely under the radar for most of the game. Playing simple passes and letting Deulofeu and Semedo to run the show, Rakitic spent quite some time covering for the men around him. It is a role that we have seen him thrive in, bt it is time for the Croatian to be a little more, which just seemed lacking.
Sergi Roberto (7/10)
A goal to his name is a deserved reward for a solid performance. Stepping up for Andres Iniesta can be hard but Sergi Roberto did more than enough to keep his critics quiet. Linking well with everyone, Sergi Roberto played the kind of incisive game that I expect from a more seasoned midfielder. His positioning was excellent and he managed to do a commendable job filling in for the captain. More of the same, please.
Gerard Deulofeu (8/10)
Man of the match. While Deulofeu wasn’t the best player on the pitch, it was his actions that were the most productive. Forcing the first goal with a teasing ball across the goal, and creating the second with an intelligent pull-back for Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu made a solid case for himself. If preseason wasn’t enough, this should do the trick.
Paco Alcacer (5/10)
A relatively invisible performance considering the lack of supply on his end, Alcacer managed to get into decent spots without cluttering up the middle. His positioning and sense of attacking play allowed him to keep some of the defenders on his coattails. Nothing special, but still a utilitarian performance.
Lionel Messi (8/10)
On any other night, Messi would have been the man of the match; not this one. Hitting the woodwork thrice, Messi was unfortunate to not have gotten on the score sheet. The Argentine however, was the key to everything, unlocking the opposition defence and pretty much taking matters into his own hands. Messi ran the show alongside Busquets, controlling and creating for all those around him playing in his vintage false 9 role. Every attack went through Messi, and if it wasn’t for bad luck, he could have added 3 goals to his game.
Aleix Vidal (4/10)
A welcome relief to see Aleix Vidal in the front line. There wasn’t much to his game considering that Betis had already shut down by the time Vidal came on. He did miss a very good chance, but he was still settling in and it was to be expected.
Denis Suarez (NA)
Nothing special, and came on too late to have any significant impact.
Lucas Digne (NA)
Once again, too late of an appearance to have any impact.
The Team (7/10)
Barca looked in control and created plenty of chances. A more clinical team could have scored 5-6 goals, but then they probably wouldn’t have created as many chances. Solid in attack and defence, with sufficient midfield control.
Ernesto Valverde (7/10)
Ernie had a good game tactically bar subs. He set up his team well, with an inverted player and a flank operator on either side (Semedo-Deulofeu/Alcacer-Alba). His changes however, were too late and practically ineffective. Yes, they gave us a glimpse of what the bench had to offer, but with little to no time left on the clock, it made no difference. Good management, but could have been better.
Man of the Match
Maybe this selection is a little biased considering how happy I am that he finally had a decent performance against a good side. Hopefully this game gives him the confidence to step up and make himself indispensable.